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War On Terror: We Need To Finish The Job

Mon, Oct. 20, 2014 Posted: 09:09 PM


As ISIS continues to unleash a campaign of terror in the Middle East, Hisham al-Hashimi, an Iraqi researcher who recently wrote a book about ISIS, warns of the devastation an ISIS/Al Qaeda collaboration could bring. Al-Hashimi's book is based on his exclusive access to the organization’s documents, years of research and his experience with advising Iraqi security forces.

In short, al-Hashimi points out that such a significant increase to the barbaric army would include the additon of key jihadic strategists, better positioning for the territorial grab needed to build an Islamic state and would place Israel in a more vulnerable position.

Some fear the reconcilliation of ISIS with its mother organization, al Qaeda, would represent the greatest terror threat to the civilized world. “I think Britain, Germany and France will witness significant attacks in their territories by the Islamic State. Al-Baghdadi [the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, otherwise known as ISIS] may reconcile with al-Zawhiri [the leader of the al-Qaeda central organization] to fight the crusader enemy. The attacks by the United States and her allies will unite the two groups,” says al-Hashimi.

He goes on to explain that he has "been monitoring al-Qaeda’s leaders’ rhetoric towards Baghdadi. They are getting softer and softer….The Islamic State,regardless of how big or small it becomes, will come back to its mother: al-Qaeda.” The divisions between ISIS and al Qaeda represent a complicated labrynth.

For instance:

 ISIS was the al-Qaeda official branch in Iraq until last February. However, they finally split after disagreements over operations in Syria. The recent US intervention in the region along with the new US-led airstrike campaign against ISIS has actually forced the two groups to renew negotiations. For example, recent reports suggested that ISIS and a l-Nusra Front are together planning the war against the US-led alliance.

The al-Qaeda affiliated Khorasan group in Syria that was also targeted in the recent air attacks declared a few days ago in an audio message that it had joined ISIS. Add to that the Taliban in Pakistan who are hopping on board the ISIS train and you have a potential jihadi World War III."

But, in addition to battling terrorists in the Middle East, the U.S. has terror issues back at home, as was recently demonstrated in the Oklahoma beheading case, the Boston Bombing and 9/11, to name a few. But, another threat has been brewing in Minnesota for years and has been virtually ignored by much of the media. Minnesota--in particular the Mineapolis-St. Paul area--is a hub for Somali immigrants, many of whom are Muslim and some of whom are linked to terrorism. It is a known recruiting ground for Somali terrorist group al Shabaab. As al Qaeda was in its infancy, al Shabaab was what appeared to be a small-time terrorist organization, but has subsequently become a force to be reckoned with.

Terrorist recruiters in Iraq and Syria are now targeting Muslim youth in Minnesota and there are three confirmed cases of Minnesotans traveling to Syria, with more rumored to have done so.These particular recruiters use tactics similar to those of al-Shabaab and the goal is centered on the establishment of an Islamic state. The invitation is extended to doctors, engineers and other individuals who would be an asset to the organization. Of course, help will be needed for rebuilding roads and buildings, etc. The recruitment techniques are professional and sophisticated, making use of social media, a glossy magazine and various compelling videos.

It has become abundantly clear that the Islamic State views the West as ripe for recruitment. Mubin Shaikh, a terrorism expert who helped infiltrate a homegrown terrorist group for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, has warned that "terrorism is theater more than anything else" and that "it's propaganda of the deed, so to speak. Now you have Westerners who are putting out the media. They are the ones appearing in the videos, threatening to behead Western citizens."

And, Dr. Stevan Weine, a psychiatry professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who has studied the reasons why some young people in Minnesota went to fight in Somalia, revealed that, "they say to them things like, 'What are you doing there? That's not your place. Your place is back home. You're always going to be a second class citizen in the United States. Come to Somalia or come to Syria and be a hero.' "

Within the Minneapolis Somali-American community the most publicly visible individual is Abdirizak Bihi, the founder and director of the Somali Education and Social Advocacy Center. Bihi is the center's only employee. His mission is to derail the numerous unemployed malcontents in the area—intervening, hopefully before al Shabaab gets to them.

Approximately one year ago, the hot topic around town was the bungled Navy SEAL raid in Somalia, which fell short of its mission—that of capturing a particular al-Shabaab member. “They were brandishing American weapons on al-Shabab websites,” Bihi explains. Proving to be quite a morale boost for the terrorist group, word on the street at that time was that “al Shabaab is stronger and can defeat the U.S.”
At any rate, what remains ominously obvious is that al Shabaab is violently anti-American. To ignore this would be done at America's own peril. For more background on the al Shabaab-Minnesota connection and the recruitment techniques of the terrorist group, watch this video.

So, what exactly is being done to address this threat? Recently, in the Twin Cities and for the third time since June, Minnesota U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger met with religious leaders, including imams, for dinner. The topic of discussion was the local recruitment by terrorist organizations of the community's youth. According to Luger, these dinners "are a way to get comfortable with each other and have very open and honest discussions about what the needs in the community are." Luger added that "it's part of an intensive focus to combat the extremism. They are fighting this in their community, and we're exploring what kind of government involvement would be helpful." But, what isn't clear is whether or not a system of vetting is used when selecting the clergy who are invited to participate in the program. Not all clergy, Islamic or not, are opposed to terrorism, so hopefully this fact has not been overlooked.

Also in Minnesota, U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden has released a four-point plan for halting the recruitment of young Americans by foreign terror groups. McFadden, a private equity manager who is challenging U.S. Sen. Al Franken in next month's election, has warned about Minnesota becoming a recruitment center for terrorism. McFadden has also accused Franken of being ineffective in stopping terror recruitment.

McFadden's four point plan is as follows:

  • Revoke passports of suspected fighters
  • Foster community and opportunity to prevent recruitment in the long-run
  • Build community mentorship and after-school programs
  • Form partnerships between communities and local law enforcement

McFadden insists, "the challenge of terror recruitment in our own backyard must be addressed and it must be addressed now. Not only are these our children being drawn in by terror organizations, but individuals who leave pose the ever-dangerous threat of returning here to our home state. We must take action to both stem travel of fighters immediately and to prevent recruitment from occurring in the first place. This means confronting the education and economic challenges that at-risk communities face, so that young people have opportunities and networks of support."

But, will these efforts be enough to curb terrorist recruitment in Minnesota? Only time will tell, but in the meantime, on a national level, similar concerns exist. Much criticism has been leveled against the Obama administration's military strategy against ISIS. Indeed, ever since the U.S. began its air campaign in Iraq back in August, the effectiveness of the campaign has been up for debate. Initially focused on whether or not to put boots on the ground, the discussion eventually moved to the efficacy of the airstrikes. Though the administration has defended its methodology, others have cited its failure to stop the terrorists advances.

It may be useful to compare the current military operation with past U.S. military campaigns, which were considered successful, since the end of the Cold War:

...during the 43-day Desert Storm air campaign against Saddam Hussein’s forces in 1991, coalition fighters and bombers flew 48,224 strike sorties. This translates to roughly 1,100 sorties a day. Twelve years later, the 31-day air campaign that helped free Iraq from Saddam’s government averaged more than 800 offensive sorties a day."

By contrast, over the past two months U.S. aircraft and a few partner forces have executed 412 strikes in Iraq and Syria. Furthermore, with ISIS controling an area almost 50,000 square miles in size, one can see why U.S. military actions have had minimal impact on the enemy's operations. In fact, very few Americans feel the U.S. and allied forces are winning the war against ISIS. According to a recent poll, only 15 percent of Americans believe there's a real chance ISIS will be defeated.

Consider the biblical account in 1 Samuel of God's command to King Saul to destroy the people of Amalek. The Amalekites are described as being vile, violent and contentious. They were also the first to make problems for the Israelites following their liberation from Egypt (Exodus 17:8). Known also for their cowardice, the Amalekites often preyed on the elderly and other vulnerable invididuals. Additionally, they would sometimes forge relationships with other nations for the purpose of annihilating the Israelites.

Although God told Saul to completely destroy the Amalekites, he disobeyed and failed to finish the job. (1 Sam. 15:9). Some of the Amalekites were allowed to live, which eventually led to another genocidal attempt on Israel.

It is clear by this example, and many other instances throughout history, that when dealing with an enemy, like the Amalekites or al Shabaab or ISIS, we need to finish the job. Enemies such as these will continue to be a problem for us if our attempts to dismantle them are half-hearted, feeble or incomplete. King Saul's lack of completion left the Israelites in a precarious position, just narrowly escaping far-reaching disaster. If we follow in King Saul's footsteps, however, we may not be so fortunate.

Candice Lanier